As we began discussing last week, in many ways, the Church will never be the same post-COVID-19. Individuals, families, communities, even entire nations, have all been impacted in real and lasting ways. Although we do not know exactly what life will be like after the dust settles from this pandemic, we do recognize that we will be living in a new state of normalcy. We desire to help your church navigate into this “new normal” in a manner that will strengthen your ministry impact.
In part two of this guide we will continue to provide resources to help you prayerfully reflect on where your church is today, assess the possibilities of what tomorrow may look like, and develop thoughtful plans for living on mission as you reopen your church doors to your community.
4. Continue Your Online Ministries
During the stay in place orders, most churches have moved their ministries online and many have seen growth they did not expect. Your online ministry may be an ongoing opportunity to connect with people in your community and beyond. Once you are able to meet in person some people may not feel comfortable going to in-person gatherings while others may prefer the digital option for other reasons.
What ministries will you continue to provide online?
What will those ministries look like once in-person gatherings are permitted?
Many Pastors have increased the way they are connecting with their people throughout the week. Online daily prayer times, periodic devotionals, regular updates, and the like, have become a part of the cadence of ministry from a distance. Church members have appreciated these additional opportunities to engage. We highly recommend you continue connecting with your people digitally during the week, avoid the temptation to stop them altogether as meaningful ministry moments have happened and will continue to happen through digital ministry opportunities.
This includes streaming your weekend worship gatherings. Not only will some people feel more comfortable staying at home during this time, across the USA pastors have shared that people who have never walked through the doors of their churches are attending online worship services. The gospel is being clearly presented and people are dedicating their lives to Jesus! Members of churches are inviting their family and friends to join them online. Christ-following spouses are seeing their unbelieving husbands and wives “go to” church with them right in their living rooms. As the Church, we want to continue to keep these opportunities open to those who are seeking.
5. Prepare Your Church to Welcome People In-Person
If you have been focusing on ministering to your community during the crisis, there will be new families that have connected to your church yet have never walked through your church doors. You only have one chance to make that first impression so take time now to prepare to welcome these new guests.
Here are some ideas for your team to process as you prepare:
- Signage – Clear, welcoming signage is always appreciated, especially when you reopening your doors to your community. Try to think like someone who has never been to your church before… what signage is going to be helpful to them? Both outdoor and indoor banners and signage are useful.
As mentioned earlier, you will want to let those who drive by your church know when you are reopening. You will also want to update people about your safety precautions, especially near your children’s areas. Here are some ideas for signage that you will want to consider:
- Welcome Back
- Our Doors are Open
- Directional signage (parking, entrance, kids’ ministry, etc)
- Safety measures (signage at hand sanitizer stations, nursery, etc)
- Website – Assess your website and determine what needs to be updated. Now might be a good time to refresh your entire website, especially since people will be checking there to learn more about your reopening details and safety measures. Outreach Sites provides stunning websites custom-designed for your church at prices to fit most any church budget, and you get Outreach Social Facebook graphics and posts for free. If you have begun streaming your worship services, be sure your website reflects that well. A helpful free tool for streaming from Facebook or YouTube directly onto your church website is FreeOnlineChurch.com.
- Children’s ministry areas – Your children’s area will be one of the most crucial things to consider as you reopen your doors. Parents will not accept children’s ministry that they feel is unsafe or subpar. Now is the time to evaluate and freshen up your kids’ ministry areas. Look into fresh coats of paint, shampooed carpets or even new flooring. Make sure you have sanitized toys, tables, chairs, etc. Remove broken or overly used furniture, toys and books. The goal is to make the space safe and appear welcoming. An easy and affordable way to transform your nursery and children’s ministry areas and incorporate a fun and inviting theme is by using easy-to-apply wall graphics.
6. Consider Your Stage of Life Ministries, especially Kids and Senior Adults
There are two groups that might be more hesitant to engage once you open your doors, but for different reasons:
- Senior adults, due to increased vulnerability and potential health issues, and
- Children, due to heightened concerns for their safety from parents.
How will you keep these groups engaged?
Many seniors have jumped the digital gap during COVID-19 out of necessity. Some that were not utilizing the internet have begun. What does that mean for your senior adult ministry? Maybe your church can purchase inexpensive Chromebooks for seniors who do not have computer access or even pay for wifi service.
Families may not come back to church as quickly. If this is the case in your area, your children’s ministry team will need to continue being innovative in connecting with families.
These ideas can be effectively adapted to either age group:
- Personal visits, even if from a distance – Ministry leaders and volunteers should be keeping in touch with regular phone calls and when it’s safe physically stop by the homes of senior adults or families with children and greet them from a distance. You can drop off age-appropriate gifts such as puzzles, craft supplies, activity books, magazines, devotional guides, fresh baked goods and the like. Even something as simple as a handheld sign from the driveway can put a smile on someone’s face.
- Ministry activities – Be sure to let these individuals know they have not been forgotten by creating ministry experiences that can be delivered digitally. Online get-togethers can easily be scheduled through Google Hangouts or other services. Create a ministry schedule with a combination of planned activities and open times to simply talk and fellowship. Join together for a craft or a game online. Bible stories and more in-depth studies can be shared via virtual groups, as well.
7. Prioritize Outreach in Your Community
The Church has left the building… let’s keep that momentum going! The efforts you have been making during this pandemic to serve your community and reach others must continue beyond the crisis. This is an aspect to our “new normal” and a great opportunity for you to help your people see the beauty and power of being the Church outside of your walls.
The following strategies will help your church stay on mission and keep community outreach a priority:
- Mask Give-away – Face masks are becoming a regular part of our lives as they are required in most public places now. Yet in some areas, supplies are limited. This is where your church can step in and be a blessing to the community. Provide disposable surgical or KN95 masks to doctors offices, nursing homes, retail shops, grocery stores and first responders as part of your outreach efforts in the community.
- Neighborhood Focus: Helping Your Neighbors – Your goal should be to get your people accustomed to engaging with their neighbors on a regular basis. This is typically one of the biggest challenges for local churches, however this crisis has opened the door for your church to champion this among your members. Keep this in front of them, speak of it often, equip them with helpful tools to connect, share stories from your ministry leaders of how you are getting to know your neighbors better… this is a massive opportunity for every single church.
- Back to Church Sunday – National Back to Church Sunday is celebrated the third Sunday of September each year. This year may be the biggest Back to Church Sunday ever as churches are reopening their doors to their communities. Even if your area permits some public gatherings over the next few months, it is likely that a sense of normalcy will not be felt by the majority of the population until school has resumed in the Fall. There are so many unknowns and families with children are experiencing a lot of changes and making ongoing adjustments. September could be the perfect time to have a large Back to Church celebration as you relaunch family ministries and invite your entire city to your church. The 2020 theme for National Back to Church Sunday is Stronger Together, which resonates positively with what so many people are experiencing.
- Celebrate Your Community Together – In many respects there is a beautiful sense of unity in our towns and cities as people from all walks of life come together to overcome the chaos of this crisis. Once people can begin meeting together, your church can support and promote this feeling by creating opportunities for your community to gather and celebrate. Here are some suggestions for community events your church can host:
- Movie Night in the Park – Get a site license to show a blockbuster, family-friendly movie in your local park and invite the whole town
- Special Speakers – Create a fun event headlined by a guest speaker, such as a professional athlete or comedian. This is a great way to bring the community together for a relaxing and fun evening which you can either host at your church or at a community event center.
- Festivals – Invite other organizations in your area to join your church in hosting a festival at a local park. Have games, face painting, inflatables, concessions, and more.
- Local Heroes Party – The heroes in your community deserve to be celebrated and this is a perfect opportunity for your church to invite the entire city to express their gratitude. Connect with city leaders for guidance, but look into inviting healthcare workers, teachers, police officers, first responders, postal workers, sanitation workers, everyone who kept your city going through the pandemic. Throw a party honoring them and lead your community in saying thank you for all they have done.
8. Evaluate Your Budget & Resource Allocations
No doubt your church has made some big changes in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. Perhaps some ministries in your church have been stopped, either because of logistics or funding, while other ministries have been launched. Do not rush to “relaunch” all of the ministries that have been put on pause. Take time to evaluate those ministries with your leadership team to determine if they should be started again post-COVID-19. This can be a positive opportunity, as it is somewhat of a challenge to cut ministries that are no longer necessary or have outlived their usefulness and effectiveness. Take time with your leadership team to determine what may need additional support and what will cease.
Investments have likely been made in new areas of ministry, such as digital and online services. Consider how you will budget for these moving forward and be willing to adjust your finances accordingly. Marketing and promotion of your church and ministries is vital during this time as many people are searching for answers. Now is the time for your church to be setting money aside for raising awareness of your church and developing outreach opportunities in your community.
What does an emergency budget look like for your church? If your giving does not rebound to pre-pandemic rates, how will you approach ministry? Consider creating budgets based upon 80% giving and 60% giving so you will be prepared. Your people may be recovering from loss of income, or even loss of jobs. This would obviously impact church finances. Even if your giving does come back in full, having an emergency budget ready can be helpful for any future crises.
Finally, do not stop innovating. In a lot of ways the COVID-19 crisis has provided us with a chance to reset, look at life and ministry differently and start over. We would love to hear what your church is doing please share your ideas, innovations and outreach tips on our Facebook page.
With 20 years of pastoral leadership experience, Jason Daye is passionate about helping ministry leaders discover how God is already working in their unique ministry contexts and uncover opportunities to build bridges into their neighborhoods to extend the hope of Christ. Jason’s lead pastor roles have provided him experience in several contexts including church plant re-launch, multi-site church, multi-ethnic urban church, and established suburban churches. He has also served in pioneering mission work and compassionate ministry projects in several countries.
As Vice President of Mobilization, he dedicates his time to encouraging and equipping churches, denominations and ministry organizations to develop their Kingdom effectiveness as they embrace the mission of Jesus. Jason provides oversight to key ministry initiatives at Outreach, equipping Christ-followers to share their faith and engaging churches to reach their communities. Jason also serves as the Executive Director of National Back to Church Sunday and as host of the Churchleaders podcast.
Jason lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his beautiful wife and six children. He enjoys hiking with his family, fighting rainbow trout, summiting 14ers and swapping stories with good friends. Connect with him on Twitter or Instagram @jasondaye.